sightings in our area - 2012
are some sightings reported by our members. They are not intended
as a comprehensive report, but are a brief summary of sightings
reported at our monthly meetings and by individual members.
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Dedicated to the memory of Russell Slack, for whom the Lower Derwent Valley was ‘his patch’ and who died during the month and will be greatly missed.
The month started with heavy flooding along the Derwent and the Ouse from snow-melt, though temperatures were mild. The two Tundra Bean Geese were photographed at Ellerton on the 1st and the Hawfinch showed well at Ampleforth on the 1st and 2nd (and again briefly on the 8th). Several flocks of Waxwing were reported (Ampleforth, Bubwith, Poppleton, Strensall) totalling over 120 birds and included a Welsh-ringed, colour-ringed bird at Strensall. A red-head Smew flew over Bank Island on the 3rd, also on this date a 1st winter Mediterranean Gull was at North Duffield Carrs, and a two Egyptian Geese were at North Duffield Ings. A 1st winter Caspian, and a 1st winter and adult Yellow-legged Gull were present at Poppleton on the 5th, also on this date 5 Pink-footed Geese flew over North Duffield before being re-located near Hagg Bridge later in the day per Natural England LDV Team with a female Scaup at Ellerton, two Bewick’s Swans still at North Duffield and 104 Whooper Swans in the LDV.
The second week of the month kicked off with another drake Scaup at North Duffield Carrs (with the two Egyptian Geese and two Bewick’s Swans still present there too). Three Iceland Gulls (1st winter, 2nd winter and adult) and a 1st winter Glaucous Gull were present at Poppleton and Wheldrake on 8th and 9th. Five Pink-footed Geese were again present near Hagg Bridge and two Tundra Bean Geese were present at Bubwith Ings on the 9th, with the female Scaup still present at Castle Howard on this date. On the 10th five European White-fronted Geese, two Egyptian Geese and the two Bewick’s Swans were present at North Duffield, with a single Pink-footed Goose at Ellerton, and a single Barnacle Goose at Thorganby. The 11th saw a Green Sandpiper at Middlethorpe Ings and 1st winter Glaucous and Iceland Gulls at Poppleton, with all of these still present on the 12th, with another 1st winter Caspian Gull (the fifth 1st winter of the year - this time with a yellow darvic-ring) at Rufforth airfield on this date. A Grey Plover was heard calling at Bubwith Bridge on the 13th, also on the 13th three Glaucous Gulls (all 1st winters), and two Iceland Gulls (2nd winter and near-adult) at Rufforth Tip with 43 Waxwing nearby in Acomb, increasing to 70 by the 14th and 100 by the 15th, including a Welsh-ringed, colour-ringed bird on the 14th and 15th and a Scottish-ringed colour-ringed bird there on the 16th and 18th!
The third week commenced with the water levels finally decreasing. On the 15th two Black-tailed Godwits were reported at Bubwith, and Natural England LDV Team reported 84 Whooper and 2 Bewick’s Swans at North Duffield, five White-fronted Geese, one Pink-footed Goose and 20 Whooper Swans at Ellerton and female Marsh Harrier at Thorganby. On the 16th two 1st winter Caspian Gulls were present at the Wheldrake gull roost (the yellow darvic-ringed bird, and a ‘new’ green darvic-ringed bird) along with 1st winter Glaucous and Iceland Gulls; also there a drake Scaup, with a female remaining at Castle Howard (and both Scaup were also present on the 17th). Also present on the 17th were additional Scaup at North Duffield (drake) and Bank Island (female) and two 1st winter Glaucous Gulls in the Wheldrake Gull roost. There was a goose movement through this weekend (16th-17th) with Pink-footed Geese passing over York city centre overnight (heard only), 14 White-fronted Geese at Thorganby, and flocks of 11, 53 and 15 Barnacle Geese north over North Duffield Carrs – the flock of 53 were seen flying south at Spurn Point the previous day before ‘U-turning’ and presumably flying up the River Humber before coming north through the LDV. Presumably the same group of Barnacle Geese (c.60+) were observed flying northwest over Rufforth Tip on the 18th and another 1st winter Caspian Gull was photographed (next to one of two 1st winter Iceland Gulls present) there on the 20th. A juvenile Glaucous Gull and an adult Yellow-legged Gull were reported at Poppleton on the 21st, with the female Scaup still present at Castle Howard, male Scaup at Aughton, the two Bewick’s Swans and two Egyptian Geese at North Duffiled/Bubwith area, five White-fronted Geese and one Pink-footed Goose still at Ellerton (per Natural England LDV Team) and a probable 1st winter Caspian Gull in the Wheldrake Gull roost.
The final week of the month started with a cold blast from the east and temperatures suffered for it, though there was an increase in waders into the recording area: Curlew, Oystercatcher, Dunlin, Golden Plover, Lapwing, Ruff (including three impressive-looking white headed males) and Black-tailed Godwit. The two Bewick’s Swans and two Egyptian Geese remained in the North Duffield area till month end, where a female/1st winter Merlin was present on the 23rd. Two drake Scaup were at Wheldrake (where there was also two ‘cream-crown’ Marsh Harriers), and there was also a drake Scaup at North Duffield. The female Scaup remained at Castle Howard to 24th where there was also a 1st winter Mediterranean Gull in the gull roost. A 1st winter Caspian Gull was again in the Wheldrake Gull roost on this date (different to the bird from the previous week) and a 1st winter Caspian Gull was also photographed at Upper Poppleton on the 26th, also on 26th, a ring-tail Hen Harrier was reported at Strensall Common, a very elusive bird assuming it is the same bird that was last seen there on the 6th of January! A flock of 17 Pink-footed Geese was tracked flying north across York City centre on the 27th and an adult male Hen Harrier was at Bubwith and North Duffield Ings on the 28th and the Green Sandpiper was still present at Heslington East. Waxwings were again present in several areas around the city but generally in much lower numbers than the previous couple of weeks, with 40 present in Strensall on the final day of the month.
2013 started as 2012 had ended, with water everywhere. The Lower Derwent Valley (LDV) was particularly heavily flooded; however there was a great deal of water at most locations throughout the York recording area. Temperatures were milder than would usually be expected for the time of year. Highlights in the first week of the month included a Marsh Harrier at North Duffield (one of at least three birds present regularly during the month), with a juvenile Glaucous Gull and adult Yellow-legged Gull at North Duffield Carrs all on the 1st. A single Waxwing in Bubwith Village was present between 2nd and 3rd, two Bewick’s Swans were present at North Duffield Carrs on the 3rd (and were present in the area on and off throughout the month). Also on the 3rd a probable ‘Dark-breasted’ Barn Owl was at Thornton Ellers and a Hen Harrier was near Canal Head; also there, a single Red Kite flew past on the 4th. On the 5th, a 1st winter Yellow-legged Gull was present at Rufforth Tip. During the Michael Clegg Memorial Bird Race on the 6th several good birds were found including ring-tail Hen Harrier and 3 Stonechat at Strensall Common, Mealy Redpoll, Jack Snipe and the over-wintering Green Sandpiper at Heslington East, and Scaup at Castle Howard. Several skeins of Pink-footed Geese totalling 1,662 birds were noted flying northwest through the LDV during the week.
The second week of the month saw temperatures start to drop and commenced with a juvenile Glaucous Gull again reported at North Duffield Carrs on the 9th, followed by a male Merlin and 1st winter Caspian Gull at Rufforth Tip on 10th, with a different 1st winter Caspain Gull and a 2nd winter Iceland Gull present there on the 12th. A Red Kite was reported over Askham Bog on the 11th. The 12th saw several records of Waxwing across the recording area and a male Stonechat at Skipwith Common. Also on this date there were four European White-fronted Geese reported between Aughton and North Duffield Carrs, these were also reported on the 13th. Also on the 13th a pair of Mandarin Duck was reported at Castle Howard for the first time in the year.
Temperatures really plummeted during the third week of the month with a good covering of snow for most. A potential Lesser Scaup seen distantly on the 17th at North Duffield Carrs (with a drake Scaup at the same site) was considered more likely to be an Aythya hybrid when finally seen well on the 18th. Also on the 17th, a Hawfinch was found at Ampleforth, with drake Green-winged Teal and male Hen Harrier both at North Duffield Carrs on this date. Further Waxwing flocks were reported from Riccal, Selby, Bishopthorpe, Redhouse/Upper Poppleton and North Duffield Carrs, though none seemed to hang around for very long. Redhouse Reservoir also had the peak Goosander flock count of the month with 56 birds recorded on 20th. The period of the 18th-20th also saw an impressive arrival of Skylark with between 1,500-2,000 birds recorded from six flocks in the south of the recording area.
The fourth week of the month started with snow still on the ground but with some recently frozen areas starting to thaw out before much more snow fell at the end of the week. 109 Whooper Swans and the 2 Bewick’s Swans were present at North Duffield on the 21st and a 1st winter Iceland Gull flew in to Wheldrake Ings to roost, with a good count of 210 Corn Bunting also coming into roost at Sutton on Derwent on this date. A pair of Egyptian Geese, and a single Pink-footed Goose was present at Wheldrake Ings on 22nd, and there was also 20+ Waxwing at Upper Poppleton on this date. A single White-fronted Goose was reported at Ellerton on 23rd. What was presumably the same pair of Egyptian Geese seen at Wheldrake Ings on the 22nd were also present at North Duffield Carrs on the 24th, also present at North Duffield Carrs on this date was a probable adult Yellow-legged Gull, with a 2nd winter bird present at Poppleton too. The 25th saw a female Merlin at Heslington, a Mealy Redpoll at Wheldrake, female Scaup at Aughton, four Tundra Bean Geese briefly at Bank Island, while the fourth Caspian Gull of the month, a 2nd winter (along with a 3rd winter Iceland Gull) were near Rufforth Tip. A dark-winged 2nd winter Iceland Gull was present at Heslington East on the afternoon of the 26th which was the same bird seen as seen at Rufforth Tip on the 12th.
The final week of the month started with a rapid thaw of several inches of snow across the recording area, with repeated flooding. A Little Egret was at Sherburn-in-Elmet on the 26th. Two Tundra Bean Geese flew through North Duffield Carrs on the 27th, on this date there was also two drake Scaup at Wheldrake Ings, 2 adult White-fronted Geese at Thornton Ings, and a Knot at Heslington East (present till month end at least). Two Egyptian Geese were at Church Bridge on the 29th, also there was at least one Mealy Redpoll amongst a large flock of Lesser Redpoll and Siskin. The final day of the month saw a 1st winter Caspian Gull at Rufforth Tip and a Merlin was at North Duffield Carrs.
December started with a continuation of Waxwing records from around the recording area and they were reported from a number of wide-ranging sites during the month, generally in decreasing numbers. A Red Kite was seen over York City Centre on the 7th.
An excellent find on the 11th concerned a Red-throated Diver on Dringhouses Pond that showed very well at times and was present until the afternoon of the 12th. On the 13th three Bewick’s Swans flew in to North Duffield Carrs with 82 Whooper Swan, with the Bewick’s Swans recorded intermittently during the remainder of the month at North Duffield Carrs, Aughton and Ellerton. One of the Bewick’s Swan was fitted with a yellow darvic-ring which has shed some interesting light of this particular birds movements – the same bird was present briefly at North Duffield in 2009 and 2010.
A flock of over 50 Brambling was present on the edge of North Duffield village on the 15th and a Grey Plover was present at Thorganby on the 16th. Also on the 16th, 154 Whooper Swan and 18 Bewick’s Swan were reported from the LDV.
Two Scaup, a 1st winter male and female, were present at Castle Howard on the 28th, along with seven Goosanders.
The first Waxwing of the winter was found just to the south of Bishopthorpe on the 3rd of November and signalled the start of an impressive passage of this species through the recording area. One Scaup was still present at Heslington East on the 3rd with two Jack and five Common Snipe there on the 7th. A late Swallow was at Skipwith Common on the 6th.
Waxwing numbers picked up in the second week of the month, with over 100 birds recorded in scattered flocks around the city on the 8th, with a peak of 300 birds recorded in one flock at St Georges Field Car Park on the 13th. A male Hen Harrier flew through North Duffield on the 8th and again on the 13th. A female/immature Scaup was present at North Duffield on the 9th with a Short-eared Owl there on 10th. Also on the 10th a Stonechat was present at Skipwith Common and a 1st winter Scaup was present at Castle Howard. A Green Sandpiper was at Pocklington Canal on 11th.
The third week of the month kicked off with a showy Bittern at North Duffield Carrs between the 15th and 22nd, that was until the reserve went under water when the River Derwent burst its banks again, resulting in some of the highest flood waters for many a year in the LDV. A 1st winter Scaup was present at Castle Howard on the 21st (a different bird to the one present on the 10th).
Waxwing numbers appeared to drop slightly by the end of the month, though there was more of a spread of records around the south of the recording area. A Red Kite was over the A19 at Escrick on the 25th and two Mealy Redpoll were present at Langwith Lakes with 25 Lesser Redpoll on 29th. A Common Chiffchaff was present in a Holgate garden on the 30th.
The month kicked off with an impressive count of eight Egyptian Geese at Thorganby on the 1st. A female/immature Merlin was observed near Brindley’s Plantation on 4th, also on the 4th five Marsh Harriers and a Short-eared Owl were present at North Duffield Carrs. With the Short-eared owl, and a number of Marsh Harriers present at the site throughout the month.
11 Whooper Swan were present at Bank Island on the 8th with at least 8 Jays present at Wheldrake Ings, part of a large movement recorded across many areas of the UK during the month. A Grey Plover flew through North Duffield Carrs on the 11th, three Stonechat (male, female and juvenile) were found at Strensell Common on the 12th (increasing to 5 birds shortly after) and a Jack Snipe showed well at Hassacarr Nature Reserve on 13th.
On the 15th a male Hen Harrier was observed hunting at Thornton with three juvenile Marsh Harrier, Short-eared Owl and Peregrine Falcon present at North Duffield Carrs. A juvenile Knot was present at Thorganby on the 17th and a large arrival of winter thrushes (Fieldfare and Redwing) were recorded during the latter part of the month.
On the 23rd a Bearded Tit was observed flying through Bank Island and four Brambling flew over Bishopthorpe, with two over North Duffield on the 25th. Two very late Tree Pipits were recorded at Allerthorpe Common on the 28th. Also on the 28th, two juvenile Scaup, Rock Pipit, Jack Snipe and Kingfisher were at Heslington East with a Brambling there on the 29th.
In memory of Andy Booth, our Club Recorder, who sadly passed away two days after submitting this sightings report.
September was again mostly unsettled with record rainfall causing flooding in many areas. As usual, the month produced a changeover of summer and winter visitors with the first Pink-footed Geese being five birds pausing briefly at Bank Island on the 8th. A notable movement was then apparent from the 13th with peak counts of 300 passing through the Lower Derwent Valley and c.125 moving southeast over York on the 21st as well as 120 south over Elvington on the 27th. Numbers of Wigeon in the Lower Derwent Valley gradually increased with 100 at Thorganby Ings by the 27th while maxima of 200 Teal and 14 Pintail were at Wheldrake Ings on the 7th and 3rd respectively. An eclipse drake Garganey remained at Bank Island from the 5th to 8th at least while numbers of Tufted Duck at Heslington East peaked at an impressive 275 birds on the 10th. Three Grey Partridges were at Heslington East on the 8th and seven Little Grebes were at both Bank Island and Wheldrake Ings on the 3rd with up to five noted at Heslington East and a juvenile Gannet was reported flying south over Bank Island on the 17th. Marsh Harriers were prominent in the Lower Derwent Valley this month, especially at North Duffield Carrs where a significant roost developed, with up to at least 13 birds present mid-month; in addition, an immature flew west over Heslington East on the 8th. A noticeable movement of Common Buzzards was witnessed on the 8th with at least 20 birds visible from Heslington East while five were at Sherburn-in-Elmet on the 22nd. Single Ospreys were noted over the River Wharfe one mile east of Tadcaster on the 9th and fishing at pools near Newton upon Derwent on the 22nd with up to two Merlins seen at North Duffield Carrs. One to two Hobbies were observed at different sites within the Lower Derwent Valley while three birds passed over Wilberfoss on the 28th and single Peregrines were noted in York on the 5th and at Wheldrake Ings on the 22nd. Moving on to waders, single Ringed Plovers were at Bank Island on the 6th and Wheldrake Ings on the 8th with up to four birds at Heslington East between the 8th and 11th. A flock of 225 Golden Plover was at North Duffield Carrs on the 16th with 200 at Elvington on the 27th and 28th which were accompanied by two Grey Plovers on the former date while another was at Bank Island on the 17th. Notable Lapwing counts included 1,000+ at Redhouse on the 11th and 560 at Elvington on the 27th while single figures of Dunlin were noted in the Lower Derwent Valley. Up to two Ruff were noted at both North Duffield Carrs and Elvington while a Jack Snipe was caught and ringed at Bank Island on the 21st with 30 Common Snipe present there on the 16th. Three Black-tailed Godwits flew over Bank Island on the 5th where they were seen again the following day with four birds there on the 7th and single Greenshanks were at the latter site on the 5th and at Wheldrake Ings on the 8th. Up to three Green Sandpipers were at Bank Island until the 16th while one lingered at Heslington East till the 10th in addition to three Common Sandpipers. A Great Skua which flew east over the A19 north of Selby on the 29th was a good record but was not seen subsequently while notable gull reports included a first-winter Mediterranean Gull moving south over Naburn Marina on the 8th and two Yellow-legged Gulls seen with 200 Lesser Black-backed Gulls in fields southwest of Thorganby on the 6th and 11th with a first-winter present at Elvington on the 26th. Following on from the good numbers present in the recording area last winter, two Short-eared Owls were at North Duffield Carrs on the 16th with one still there on the 22nd. The last Swifts of the year were two birds at Castle Howard Lake on the 4th while a Green Woodpecker was at Fulford Ings on the 8th and the last Sand Martins were 15 over the River Wharfe one mile east of Tadcaster and a single at Redhouse Reservoir, both on the 9th. At least 50 House Martins were attracted to a sunlit wall of a building at York Science Park on the 3rd and Tree Pipits were on the move with singles over North Duffield on the 11th and at Walmgate Stray, York on the 22nd while 20+ Meadow Pipits were at Heslington East on the 8th. A single Yellow Wagtail was at Wheldrake Ings on the 3rd with three flying over York on the 7th while a Whinchat was at Redhouse on the 9th and single Wheatears at both Heslington East and North Duffield Carrs on the 8th where two were present on the 11th. Two Reed Warblers were still at Wheldrake Ings on the 3rd with one noted at Castle Howard Lake the following day while other lingering warblers included a Common Whitethroat at Fulford Ings on the 8th, three Blackcaps at Redhouse on the 11th where a Willow Warbler was seen on the 18th, and ten Chiffchaffs counted along the River Ouse between York and Naburn on the 8th with three at Heslington East on the 14th and one at Redhouse on the 18th. Single Spotted Flycatchers were at Bank Island and Skipwith Common on the 8th while eight Marsh Tits at Redhouse on the 6th was a good total. A Nuthatch remained at Fulford Ings on the 15th where a single Jay was seen on the 8th. An interesting record involved a Raven seen flying east over the A1, six miles outside the recording area, on the 7th while 30 Tree Sparrows were at Redhouse on the 18th. Finally, c.40 Goldfinches were at Heslington East on the 21st while up to 12 Siskins were seen at Redhouse with at least six birds present at Heslington Tillmire on the 22nd.
Another mainly unsettled month in what has been a prolonged washout of a spring and summer! Three female or juvenile Mandarin Ducks were on the New River Pond at Castle Howard on the 26th along with two Wigeon with up to eight of the latter seen at Wheldrake Ings during the month and a single at Bank Island on the 14th. Wheldrake Ings also held 80 Teal on the 6th while a maximum of c.120 was at Bank Island on the 29th. Good numbers of Garganey were reported with a peak of at least 16 at Bank Island on the 15th and up to five birds at Wheldrake Ings. The former site also held up to nine Shoveler and the female Scaup continued to be reported until at least the 14th while a build-up of Tufted Duck was noted at Heslington East, reaching a maximum of 43 on the 28th. Little Grebe was a new addition to the latter site, as numbers increased to five birds by the 29th with respective maxima of seven and five at Bank Island and Wheldrake Ings on the 11th. There were two pairs of Great Crested Grebes at York University Lake with one pair having two well-grown young and the other pair apparently incubating. Up to seven Little Egrets frequented Wheldrake Ings with up to three birds visiting Bank Island where a maximum count of 46 Grey Herons was recorded on the 18th. At least four Marsh Harriers were noted in the Bank Island/ Wheldrake Ings area throughout the month including at least two juveniles with another bird seen flying north over the A64 towards Heslington on the 17th. Belated news concerned a report of two Ospreys fishing in the grounds of Kilnwick Percy Hall late in the month. It was generally quiet for raptors, however, as the only other interesting records concerned and adult and juvenile Hobby high over Bubwith village on the 5th and an adult at Bank Island on the 26th as well as a large female Peregrine noted in the Bank Island/Wheldrake Ings area from the 23rd. On the other hand, waders were well reported, with Bank Island proving particularly attractive. Two Oystercatchers were at Heslington East on the 1st and 2nd while up to three Little Ringed Plovers were noted at Wheldrake Ings early in the month with up to two at Bank Island from the 14th. Three Common Ringed Plovers were at Heslington East on the 2nd with a single there on the 14th and singles also at Bank Island and Wheldrake Ings on the 11th before an impressive count of 22 was made at Bank Island on the 23rd with c.15 birds remaining by the 29th. The only Golden Plovers reported were nine at Wheldrake Ings on the 5th and one at Bank Island on the 5th with the latter site holding up to 400 Lapwings. Up to six Dunlin were also seen at Bank Island with up to four at Wheldrake Ings while these sites respectively held up to 14 and ten Ruff. Maxima of Snipe were 120 at Bank Island on the 15th and 80 at Wheldrake Ings on the 10th as six Black-tailed Godwits flew west at Heslington East on the 1st with up to five birds noted at both Bank Island and Wheldrake Ings. Meanwhile, two Whimbrel flew southwest over Heslington East on the 2nd and a single elusive Spotted Redshank was seen at Bank Island on the 17th and 18th with four Common Redshank there on the 7th. Greenshank were well reported throughout the month with up to at least ten at Bank Island, five at Wheldrake Ings and two at Heslington East. This was also the case for Green Sandpiper with up to at least ten birds recorded from both Bank Island and Wheldrake Ings while five flew over East Cottingwith towards Wheldrake on the 20th and up to two birds frequented Heslington East. The only record of Wood Sandpiper, however, concerned a single bird at Bank Island on the 17th while five Common Sandpipers were at Castle Howard Lake on the 26th with up to three birds at Heslington East as well as ones and twos noted at Bank Island and Wheldrake Ings. The rarest wader this month, though, was a juvenile Red-necked Phalarope reported from Bank Island on the 17th, but it did not perform for other than the initial observers. An immature Yellow-legged Gull was observed at close quarters at York University Lake on the 11th while the only records of Common Tern were a pair at Naburn Marina and a single at Bank Island, both on the 18th. Around 200 Swifts were at Heslington East on the 1st with 50+ in the Heslington area on the 16th by which time most local birds had departed with only four seen at Heslington East on the 28th. Good numbers of Barn Swallow and House Martin were also reported while two Meadow Pipits at Heslington East on the 2nd were deemed the first of the ‘autumn’. Two Whinchats at North Duffield Carrs did not appear to hang around for long while lingering warblers included a Sedge Warbler at Heslington East on the 14th, a Reed Warbler at Castle Howard Lake on the 26th, single Common Whitethroats at Fulford Ings and Heslington mid-month, a Garden Warbler at Castle Howard on the 2nd and three Chiffchaffs in the Heslington area on the 16th with eight along the River Ouse between York and Naburn on the 18th. Three Spotted Flycatchers were at Nun Monkton on the 19th while the family party of Nuthatches at Wheldrake Ings was seen again on the 26th. Finally, c.60 Goldfinches were noted at Heslington East on the 10th with a similar number of Crossbills reported from Bishop Wood during the month.
Another unsettled month with above average rainfall though there was some warmer weather in the final week. A juvenile Mandarin Duck was reported from Castle Howard Lake on the 10th – possibly indicative of local breeding – with it or another female-type bird seen on the 28th. Bank Island attracted a good number and variety of waterbirds this month with a single Wigeon present on the 8th and two Garganey on the 28th while a drake was ringed at Wheldrake on the 30th with two juveniles present there the following day. A good count of 75 Tufted Ducks was at Bank Island on the 8th with three broods noted at Castle Howard Lake on the 10th and the juvenile Scaup remaining at Bank Island all month. Two Grey Partridges were reported from farmland below Mowthorpe Hill on the 14th when a pair was also seen at Middlethorpe Ings while a single was at Heslington East on the 20th and three Quails back at the traditional site of West Lilling on the 9th. Bank Island held four Great Crested Grebes and six Little Grebes on the 8th with a Black-necked Grebe there on the 13th. A pair of Great Crested Grebes was seen with a single well-grown youngster at York University and there was an adult at Naburn Marina while 45 Grey Herons at Wheldrake Ings on the 28th was noteworthy. The only raptor records, however, concerned a Marsh Harrier at Wheldrake Ings on the 29th and 30th as well as a single Hobby lingering in the Elvington area early on. There was a decent wader passage along with some breeding records as a pair of Oystercatchers successfully fledged three young at Heslington East with birds also noted at three other suitable breeding sites. A Little Ringed Plover frequented Elvington Water Treatment Works early in the month with up to three birds at Wheldrake Ings from the 29th. Flocks of Golden Plover and Lapwing began to build up late on with up to 40 and 550 respectively at Wheldrake while a Dunlin was also present at Elvington Water Treatment Works at the start of the month. Up to four Ruff were at Wheldrake Ings from the 28th when two Black-tailed Godwits were seen briefly at Heslington East before flying off south, probably accounting for two birds seen subsequently at Wheldrake. Two Whimbrel passed north over Heslington East on the 20th while nine Curlews were at Wheldrake Ings on the 15th and a family party at Castle Howard Lake on the 28th. At least three Common Redshanks were at Wheldrake Ings on the 31st with a Greenshank at Elvington Water Treatment Works early in the month and up to two at Wheldrake from the 30th. A Green Sandpiper was still at Heslington East on the 3rd with up to three birds noted at different sites within the Lower Derwent Valley throughout while a Wood Sandpiper was at Wheldrake Ings from the 29th. A good ‘flock’ of at least seven Common Sandpipers was at Heslington East on the 1st with up to four at Castle Howard Lake and singles seen in the Lower Derwent. An adult summer Mediterranean Gull was in the Thorganby area on the 8th with another bird seen at Holme-on-Spalding-Moor, just outside the recording area, next day along with a first-summer Little Gull. A second-summer Yellow-legged Gull was also seen in the Thorganby area on the 8th and 15th along with 35 Lesser Black-backed Gulls while up to two Yellow-legged Gulls were also reported from Holme-on-Spalding-Moor. In addition, the latter site held a third-summer Caspian Gull on the 9th and a probable second-summer bird on the 15th. Pairs of Common Terns were seen at three sites while an interesting run of Turtle Dove records concerned singles in a garden at Osbaldwick, York on the 20th and 21st as well as Yearsley Moor on the 22nd with song heard at Foggathorpe on the 25th. A juvenile Cuckoo at Rawcliffe Ings on the 26th was a good record while three Barn Owls were in the Redhouse area on the 13th. Congregations of Swifts included 1,000+ estimated to be hawking over Heslington East on the 3rd with 300 at Castle Howard Lake on the 28th and 200 at Wheldrake Ings on the 30th. Three Green Woodpeckers were at Calley Heath YWT reserve on the 7th with one at Low Mowthorpe Farm on the 14th and two juveniles seen at Allerthorpe Common on the 28th. There were a few more warbler reports this month, mainly as a result of post-breeding dispersal, including a Grasshopper Warbler again reeling at a site near North Duffield on the 16th, a Sedge Warbler singing at Redhouse Reservoir on the 13th with two singing at Fulford Ings on the 21st and ten Common Whitethroats counted along the River Ouse between York and Naburn on the 15th while Garden Warbler, Blackcap, Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler were all reported from the Redhouse area on the 13th. Single Spotted Flycatchers were at Askham Bog on the 8th and Redhouse on the 24th while a male and juvenile Siskin at a garden feeder in Nether Poppleton on the 4th possibly indicated local breeding as did several family parties at Redhouse on the 24th. Eight Crossbills were at Calley Heath YWT reserve on the 7th with two in Mowthorpe Wood on the 14th when birds were also heard in Stittenham Wood. Finally, several Corn Buntings were noted at West Lilling – a traditional breeding site – on the 9th and two were singing on farmland below Mowthorpe Hill on the 14th.
Like April, June turned out to be the wettest on record with particularly stormy weather towards the end of the month and below average temperatures. An impressive gathering of 95 Mute Swans was at Wheldrake Ings on the 2nd with two birds at Heslington East on the 8th where a female Mandarin Duck was also present on the 16th. Up to seven Wigeon were noted from a few sites within the Lower Derwent Valley with up to seven Garganey seen at Wheldrake Ings early in the month as well as 15 Shoveler present at the same site on the 5th. Up to seven Pochard were also seen at Wheldrake Ings with singles at Heslington East while a juvenile Scaup turned up at Bank Island on the 24th and proved to be a long-stayer. At least four pairs of Great Crested Grebes were taking advantage of the floods at Wheldrake during the month with three pairs of Black-necked Grebe reported to have been present in the Lower Derwent Valley during the spring. The highlight of the month, for those who saw it at least, was an immature Gannet which was tracked by car and videoed flying west towards York on the 24th! Meanwhile, up to four Little Egrets were regularly reported from Bank Island and Wheldrake Ings throughout the month with singles seen at Heslington East on the 6th and 8th. There were a few interesting raptor records this month including a Honey Buzzard reported flying low west over East Cottingwith on the 24th where a Red Kite flew south on the 13th and Marsh Harriers were sighted in the Wheldrake area on three dates. Single Ospreys were at Wheldrake Ings on the 6th, Castle Howard on the 10th and 15th and fishing in a lake near Pocklington on the 28th. There were Hobby reports from the Lower Derwent Valley and Castle Howard with one passing over York railway station on the 30th being more unusual while a Peregrine was high over Sherburn in Elmet on the 18th. Three Spotted Crakes were calling at Bank Island on the 2nd with just one heard the following night before birds fell silent, though any breeding attempts probably failed due to subsequent flooding. A Common Crane flew high over Acomb, York on the 10th while wader records included three Oystercatchers at Heslington East on the 8th with six at Bank Island on the 30th as Lapwing flocks began to build up earlier than usual because of the poor spring. More surprising, however, was a Pectoral Sandpiper seen by just two observers at North Duffield Carrs on the 1st while a female Ruff was at Wheldrake Ings on the 9th where up to nine Black-tailed Godwits were noted as well as a single bird at Bank Island. Up to three Common Redshanks were at Heslington East early in the month and a Greenshank at Wheldrake on the 2nd with Green Sandpipers at Bank Island on the 24th and Heslington East on the 30th presumably indicating return passage. An adult and first-summer Little Gull at the latter site on the 10th was a good find while a first-summer was also at Wheldrake Ings on the 10th and a first-summer Caspian Gull was noted just outside the recording area near Holme-on-Spalding-Moor on the 28th. Up to four Common Terns were frequenting the Wheldrake area during the month with nest-building observed on the 16th. Two Cuckoos were calling in the vicinity of Naburn Sewage Works on the 5th when another was at Wheldrake Ings where three Barn Owls were seen on the 6th and a pair at East Cottingwith on the 12th while a Little Owl was at Dunnington Common on the 10th. A count of some 200 Swifts at Wheldrake Ings on the 12th was easily surpassed by 2,000+ over Sherburn in Elmet on the 18th with a Green Woodpecker again noted at Middlethorpe Ings on the 5th and a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker heard calling in Askham Bog on the 15th. Two Tree Pipits were at Yearsley Moor on the 4th when seven Reed Warblers were at Castle Howard Lake though the only other warbler reports concerned a single Lesser Whitethroat at North Duffield Carrs on the 5th and at least six singing in the East Cottingwith area on the 10th. A Spotted Flycatcher nest was discovered at Crockey Hill on the 9th while 300 Starlings were counted at Wheldrake Ings the following day when two Marsh Tits were at Rabbit Warren Wood, Dunnington. A family party of four Nuthatches at Wheldrake Ings on the 9th was a good record and six Siskins were at Yearsley Moor on the 4th when 26 Crossbills were also seen with seven flying east over Sherburn in Elmet on the 2nd and a single over Crook Moor near Skipwith on the 15th. At least nine Corn Buntings were singing in the East Cottingwith area on the 10th while two presumed escaped Sacred Ibis were present at Marston Moor on the 20th and 21st.
Most of the month was chilly and dull with average rainfall but warm temperatures were experienced in the final week. Up to 80 Mute Swans at Wheldrake Ings on the 30th was notable while the two suspect Snow Geese were seen again there on the 8th when an Egyptian Goose was present at East Cottingwith. Also on the 8th, a group of five Black-bellied Whistling Ducks at Heslington East continued the exotica theme! Meanwhile, 79 Common Shelduck were at Thorganby Ings on the 6th and more Mandarins were reported with three birds at Castle Howard Lake on the 6th and a drake near Hessay on the 17th. Small numbers of Wigeon remained at Wheldrake Ings and Castle Howard Lake while Garganey were regularly reported from the Lower Derwent Valley with six birds noted at Wheldrake on the 28th. Diving ducks included 12 Pochard at Thorganby on the 15th with smaller numbers also noted at Wheldrake Ings and Castle Howard Lake. Flooding in the Lower Derwent Valley resulted in some impressive gatherings of Tufted Duck with a maximum count of 207 birds at Thorganby Ings on the 6th, while a possible female Scaup was seen briefly in flight at Wheldrake on the 27th and a single Goldeneye was still at Ellerton on the 4th. A pair of Grey Partridges was at Clifton Ings on the 18th while singing Quails were heard at Holme upon Spalding Moor (just outside the recording area) and briefly at Heslington East on the 25th. Four Little Grebes were noted at Wheldrake Ings on the 16th and 27th where up to eight Great Crested Grebes were also present and a total of 15 pairs in the Lower Derwent Valley as a whole while three Black-necked Grebes were at North Duffield Carrs on the 13th and 14th at least. One to two Little Egrets frequented the Wheldrake and North Duffield areas with a maximum of eight birds at Bank Island on the 30th where a Spoonbill was reported flying south on the 25th. Raptors were still on the move too with a Honey Buzzard claimed flying over Storwood on the 6th, four sightings of Red Kite, one to two Marsh Harriers seen in the Lower Derwent, single Ospreys west at Thorganby on the 16th and northwest at Bank Island on the 21st, one to two Hobbies recorded in the Lower Derwent, with the first seen near Wheldrake on the 4th, and Peregrines noted at three sites. Wader passage was again good with the floods in the Lower Derwent Valley attracting most birds: two Avocets seen briefly at Wheldrake Ings on the 7th were then relocated at North Duffield Carrs the following day; a Little Ringed Plover was at Hagg Lane on the 10th with single Common Ringed Plovers seen at four sites; a summer-plumaged Grey plover flew over Heslington East on the 26th and a Sanderling was at North Duffield Carrs on the 8th with two at Heslington East on the 27th; a Temminck’s Stint was a good find at the latter site on the 19th with two birds there next day which were seen again briefly the day after and another was reported at Wheldrake Ings on the 22nd; up to five Dunlins were noted in the Lower Derwent Valley with two at Heslington East late in the month; the only record of Ruff concerned a single at Wheldrake Ings on the 4th while a Woodcock was seen at Yearsley Moor on the 16th; three Black-tailed Godwits were present at Thorganby Ings on the 8th and Wheldrake on the 11th where 11 birds paused briefly on the 31st and an adult Bar-tailed Godwit was found feeding with Whimbrel at North Duffield Carrs on the 1st, remaining until the 3rd; c.20 Whimbrel were present at this site before birds soon moved on and one flew south over Heslington East on the 6th; the only Common Redshanks reported were singles at Heslington East on the 8th and 20th while up to five Greenshanks were noted at North Duffield Carrs early in the month with three birds at Heslington East towards the month end; a Wood Sandpiper was seen at Wheldrake Ings on the 27th while Common Sandpipers were reported from three sites and three Turnstones flew north at Bank Island on the 11th with two later returning south over North Duffield Carrs and another appearing at Heslington East from the 27th, remaining till the 29th. A first-summer Mediterranean Gull was seen at Thorganby Ings on the 8th with two present at North Duffield Carrs the following day while adult Little Gulls were noted at Wheldrake ings on the 7th and 29th. Two Arctic Terns lingered at Raker Lakes on the 3rd but the next day saw at least 160 birds pass through the Lower Derwent Valley – probably the highlight of the month for those lucky enough to witness this event. Common Terns were seen in much smaller numbers with a pair at Naburn Marina on the 5th and up to four at different sites within the Lower Derwent at any time while a single Black Tern flew south at Wheldrake Ings on the 19th. The only record of Turtle Dove involved a brief appearance of one bird in a Sheriff Hutton garden on the 19th but Cuckoos were noted in a number of localities with five calling in the Lower Derwent Valley on the 27th. A late Short-eared Owl was still at Wheldrake Ings on the 4th as Swifts soon became numerous with some impressive counts including c.500 at Wheldrake Ings on the 16th and an estimated 1,500 there on the 31st. Two Green Woodpeckers were in Jeffrey Bog YWT reserve on the 4th while c.25 Sand Martins were at Clifton Ings on the 6th and c.30 Barn Swallows at Heslington Tillmire on the 3rd. Nearby, at Heslington East, a Red-rumped Swallow was seen briefly on the 6th but unfortunately did not linger. Yellow Wagtails were reported from three sites with most records from Heslington East while a probable ‘Channel Wagtail’ (Yellow/Blue-headed Wagtail hybrid) was seen in the North duffield area on the 10th with a White Wagtail at Heslington East on the 6th. Two male Common Redstarts were singing at Castle Howard on the 20th with another male on territory at Skipwith Common and a male Whinchat in a field near North Duffield on the 10th. It was another good month for Wheatears with up to at least 12 birds at Heslington East and others reported from Clifton Ings, East Cottingwith and Hagg Lane. Lingering Fieldfares included c.30 at Heslington Tillmire on the 3rd and 15 flying northeast over Strensall Common on the 6th with the last being six at East Cottingwith and a single at Clifton Ings on the 8th. Single Grasshopper Warblers were reeling at Storwood on the 3rd and near North Duffield on the 6th, in what was to prove a poor spring for the species. Meanwhile, eight Sedge Warblers were counted at Wheldrake Ings on the 11th with a single Reed Warbler at East Cottingwith on the 6th, two at Wheldrake Ings from the 11th and two at Castle Howard Lake on the 20th. A Lesser Whitethroat was singing at Fulford Ings on the 5th with further singles noted at Clifton Ings, North Duffield Carrs and Walmgate Stray while two Common Whitethroats were singing at Jeffrey Bog YWT reserve and Rawcliffe Bar Park&Ride on the 4th followed by others at Fulford Ings, Askham Bog and Wheldrake Ings. A single Garden Warbler was at Wheldrake Ings on the 4th with four there by the 11th while 12 Blackcaps were singing along the River Ouse between York and Naburn on the 5th and the first Spotted Flycatcher was at Poppleton on the 21st with another at Askham Bog on the 24th in a better year for the species. Perhaps more exciting was a Hooded Crow seen flying west south of East Cottingwith on the 10th which unfortunately could not be relocated. Single Siskins were noted at Yearsley Moor on the 16th, Redhouse Woods on the 15th and in different Heslington gardens on the 19th and 20th while c.200 Linnets were at Heslington East on the 10th. Crossbills were also reported from Yearsley Moor on the 16th while two Corn Buntings were singing at Hagg Lane on the 10th with one still there the following day.
Not memorable for good weather, April was the wettest on record and resulted in the inevitable flooding of vulnerable areas. This was particularly the case in the Lower Derwent Valley and a good variety of waterbirds were reported. Twenty Whooper Swans were still present at Aughton Ings on the 8th and two adult Snow Geese of suspect origin were seen at Wheldrake Ings on the 2nd. A drake Mandarin Duck was at Askham Bog on the 24th with two at Castle Howard Lake on the 28th along with three Wigeon and seven Gadwall. Wheldrake Ings held 420 Teal and seven Pintail on the 23rd as well as 130 Tufted Ducks with 48 of the latter at Castle Howard Lake on the 28th. A drake Garganey graced Newburgh Priory lake from the 1st-3rd at least while ones and twos were noted at several sites within the Lower Derwent Valley from the 22nd. Three Goldeneye were at Castle Howard Lake on the 6th with single females at Wheldrake Ings from the 22nd-26th and Castle Howard Lake and Thorganby Ings, both on the 28th. The only Goosander reported was at the latter site on the 26th while a pair of Grey Partridges was at Heslington East on the 22nd. A Great Crested Grebe was noted at Naburn Marina on the 6th with two pairs at Heslington East the following day and five birds at Castle Howard Lake on the 15th while a number were attracted to the floods in the Lower Derwent Valley with a maximum of six birds at Wheldrake Ings on the 23rd. Meanwhile, a pair of Black-necked Grebes was at Wheldrake Ings on the 22nd. A few reports of scarcer raptors were received including different Red Kites moving west at Heslington East and Wheldrake Ings on the 1st; single Ospreys west at York University on the 11th, lingering at North Duffield Carrs on the 14th and 15th before heading north, north over Strensall Common on the 16th and over Bank Island on the 27th; Merlins at Heslington East on the 3rd and East Cottingwith on the 10th; and immature male Peregrines at Heslington East on the 1st and Wheldrake Ings on the 10th. Moving on to waders, 28 Golden Plovers flew west over Heslington East on the 5th with c.20 seen near Crockey Hill on the 19th, a single Dunlin was at Wheldrake on the 8th and a Ruff at Thorganby Ings on the 23rd while numbers of Black-tailed Godwits were seen at various sites in the Lower Derwent Valley throughout the month with a maximum of c.200(!) birds at Wheldrake Ings on the 18th. Seven Whimbrel were at Wheldrake Ings on the 22nd and 23rd with 45+ at Thorganby Ings on the 26th as flooding affected the birds’ use of traditional sites. The only Common Redshank reported was one at Heslington East early on while up to three Greenshanks were noted at a few sites within the Lower Derwent from the 10th-28th. Two Green Sandpipers were at Heslington East early in the month and a single Common Sandpiper was at Bank Island on the 20th. One lucky observer picked up two Arctic Skuas passing high east over Sutton upon Derwent on the 30th while probably the same first-summer Little Gull was seen at Bubwith Ings on the 26th and nearby North Duffield Carrs on the 30th. Late white-winged gulls concerned first- and second-summer Iceland Gulls in a ploughed field near Knapton on the 15th and a juvenile Glaucous Gull flying west at Bank Island on the 13th. There was a reasonable tern passage, particularly towards the end of the month, heralded by 38 Arctic Terns moving through Bank Island on the 18th with three Common Terns at Redhouse Reservoir on the 23rd and a showy adult Black Tern lingering at Thorganby Ings on the 26th and 27th. The first Cuckoo of the spring was at Storwood on the 21st followed by one or two in the Melbourne/Thornton area on the 30th. More unusual was a roosting Long-eared Owl visible from the Pool Hide at Wheldrake Ings on the 8th and 9th while one to two Short-eared Owls continued to be seen in the Lower Derwent Valley. The first Swift of the season made a welcome appearance at Newburgh Priory Lake on the 20th and was followed by three birds at Thorganby Ings on the 26th and at least ten at North Duffield Carrs on the 28th when a single was at Castle Howard Lake. A Green Woodpecker at Middlethorpe Ings on the 6th was unusual while a flock of c.75 Sky Larks in the Deighton/Naburn area on the 19th was a good count. Unfortunately, numbers of Sand Martins remained low but this may have been a blessing in disguise in view of the floods. However, Swallow sightings steadily increased with c.70 at Newburgh Priory Lake by the 20th and single figure counts of House Martins were reported from the 7th. The first Tree Pipit of the year was noted at Yearsley Moor on the 28th while 30+ Meadow Pipits were at Heslington East on the 3rd with two Scandinavian Rock Pipits being identified there the previous day, one remaining in the area till the 8th. Also at Heslington East on the latter date, the first Yellow Wagtail was seen with further birds noted in the recording area from the 19th when five White Wagtails were reported from Ellerton. The last Waxwings of a poor winter for the species were seven birds seen briefly in Selby on the 3rd before flying off northwards. It was a good month for Wheatears, however, with up to six birds at Heslington East and one to two at North Duffield Carrs and Ellerton. Good numbers of Fieldfares were reported throughout the month though the only record of Redwing concerned three birds at Allerthorpe Common on the 7th. Single Grasshopper and Sedge Warblers were singing at Wheldrake Ings on the 18th with further individuals of the latter also noted at other sites within the Lower Derwent Valley. A possible Lesser Whitethroat was heard at Aughton church on the 28th with another at Bank Island on the 30th while a Common Whitethroat was singing at Hesington East from the 19th followed by others at Poppleton on the 26th and in the Melbourne/Thornton area on the 30th. The first Garden Warbler was at Yearsley Moor on the 28th while Blackcaps became more noticeable, although still in low numbers. A Wood Warbler which burst into song in a Heslington garden on the 30th was a big surprise for the observer while one of two Willow Warblers there at the same time flew into a window and was seen to be ringed; further investigation revealed it to have been trapped in Angus, Scotland on 13th July 2010 – an interesting recovery. Further Willow Warblers were reported from a wide scattering of localities while 15 Chiffchaffs were in song along the River Ouse between York and Naburn on the 6th. A Marsh Tit at Heslington East on the 1st was a new record for the site with another noted at Yearsley Moor on the 28th while Nuthatches were on territory at traditional sites. Two Siskins flew north over Heslington East on the 8th where a Twite was found on the 1st and remained, associating with up to 50 Linnets, until the 4th at least, being reported again briefly on the 19th. At least 40 Crossbills were at Allerthorpe Common on the 5th with five at Redhouse Woods next day, c.20 at Wheldrake Wood on the 10th and six at Yearsley Moor on the 28th. Last, but not least, the only report of Corn Bunting this month concerned a singing bird at Allerthorpe Common on the 7th.
March remained fairly settled and dry with record breaking temperatures in the final week making it feel more like summer! It was a busy month for birds with the gradual departure of some winter visitors and the appearance of the first summer migrants. At least 25 Whooper Swans were still at Wheldrake Ings on the 14th but birds were soon on the move with higher counts including 76 heading northwards from Wheldrake on the 16th when 50+ passed north over Ampleforth; smaller numbers were then recorded in the Lower Derwent Valley with a single noted at Heslington East on the 25th. One to two Pink-footed Geese were at Wheldrake Ings on the 24th and 25th where 38 Shelduck were present on the former date with ten at Newburgh Priory lake on the 20th and 62 Teal counted at the latter site on the 6th. Several Pintail were still at Wheldrake on the 18th with a single at Newburgh Priory lake on the 20th while the first Garganey was a drake at Bank Island on the 18th followed by a (probable) pair at Wheldrake Ings on the 24th/25th and another drake at Newburgh Priory lake from the 30th. A female Red-crested Pochard discovered on the pool at Wheldrake on the 27th was still present next day while 12 Goldeneye remained at Castle Howard Lake on the 6th. Goosanders were seen at a few localities with a maximum of 22 at Redhouse Reservoir on the 22nd and a Great Crested Grebe had returned to Heslington East by the 15th with three there the day after and a single at Wheldrake Ings on the 25th. A rehabilitated Red Kite was released at Wheldrake where it was seen on the 18th and could have accounted for sightings at North Duffield Carrs on the 27th and over Badger Hill, York on the 29th. Single Marsh Harriers were reported in the Lower Derwent Valley on four dates while there were numerous reports of Common Buzzard in suitable breeding habitat including up to nine birds together. An early Osprey passed through Crockey Hill on the 10th and was followed by others moving north at North Duffield on the 19th, York city centre on the 23rd and Askham Bog on the 28th. A run of Merlin records this month probably involved birds passing through the area as it had been a poor winter locally for the species; most reports came from the Lower Derwent Valley apart from one down Langwith Lane on the 17th and a female photographed flying over Askham Bog on the 20th. One to two Peregrines were noted in the Lower Derwent throughout the month with another powering over Heslington East on the 21st. Up to two Water Rails were calling at Wheldrake Ings while a good passage of waders included: several pairs of Oystercatcher returned to traditional breeding sites, an Avocet at Wheldrake Ings on the 26th, the first Little Ringed Plover at Heslington East from the 10th with two at Wheldrake Ings on the 31st, a Common Ringed Plover at Heslington East on the 20th, 16 Golden Plovers at Wheldrake on the 25th, 34 Lapwings at Heslington Tillmire on the 27th with 12 at Middlethorpe Ings on the 9th, a Dunlin at Heslington East from the 15th-17th with a maximum of 25 at Wheldrake Ings on the 25th where there were up to 15 Ruff, a Jack Snipe at Heslington East on at least the 10th, two Woodcocks at Hassacarr NR on the 20th with others at Strensall Common on the 23rd and St Nicholas Fields, York on the 31st, a maximum of 65 Black-tailed Godwits at Wheldrake Ings on the 28th, 47 Curlews at Wheldrake on the 25th with birds back on territory elsewhere, a Redshank at Heslington East on the 10th with three present from the 14th and five at Wheldrake Ings on the 18th and a Green Sandpiper lingering at Heslington East with others at Strensall Common on the 23rd and over Wheldrake Ings on the 29th. Moving on to gulls, a Mediterranean Gull was picked out from the masses of Black-headed Gulls flying over York city centre on the 7th while an adult Yellow-legged Gull was at Poppleton on the 5th with a third-summer at Heslington East on the 29th. Small numbers of Lesser Black-backed Gulls were regularly seen at Poppleton while there were frequent reports of both Iceland and Glaucous Gulls involving at least six of the former and two of the latter; most were seen at Poppleton but also at the Wheldrake Ings roost and a few birds were picked out as they passed over Heslington East. More unusual was an adult Kittiwake which visited Castle Howard Lake on the 3rd. Several Barn Owls were seen in typical locations while the good run of Short-eared Owl records continued with most seen in the Lower Derwent Valley including five at North Duffield Carrs on the 17th when there were three at Wheldrake Ings; three birds also remained in the Poppleton area and two were down Langwith Lane, again on the 17th. Single Green Woodpeckers were noted at several sites while a male Lesser Spotted Woodpecker was seen by one lucky observer at Strensall Common on the 21st. Wood Larks were back on territory by the middle of the month and the first Sand Martin was seen at North Duffield Carrs on the 11th with four at Redhouse Reservoir on the 20th but few were reported subsequently and this worrying trend continued well into April. The first Swallow was at Escrick on the 28th followed by two at Newburgh Priory lake on the 30th and a single at Heslington East on the 31st where 30 Meadow Pipits were present on the 17th. A fine male White Wagtail was at Redhouse Reservoir on the 22nd while a probable Waxwing was glimpsed in a roadside hedge from a passing car in York the previous day. A Wheatear was at North Duffield Carrs on the 19th with two males at Heslington East on the 20th while Fieldfares were on the move as 1,500 passed through the Lower Derwent Valley on the 16th with flocks of 20-30 birds noted elsewhere. The only record of Redwing, however, concerned three birds at Fulford Ings on the 28th, looking out of place in the warm sunshine! Meanwhile, the first Sedge Warbler was at Wheldrake on the 30th and presumed newly arrived Blackcaps were evident from the 27th with the first singing Chiffchaff noted at York University on the 14th and an early Willow Warbler in a North Duffield garden on the 25th. Both Marsh and Willow Tit were noted at Redhouse Woods on the 13th with two of the former singing at Askham Bog on the 22nd as well as eight of the latter when three Willow Tits were also singing at Wheldrake Ings. A pair of Nuthatches was at Calley Heath YWT reserve on the 18th with others at the regular sites of Bishopthorpe Palace and Fulford Ings but a bird singing at Bank Island on the 30th was very unusual. The poor winter for Brambling continued with the only records being a female at Wass Wood on the 6th and three birds at Castle Howard on the 20th. A mixed flock of 40+ Siskin and Lesser Redpoll was at Redhouse Woods on the 13th with a single of the former at Naburn Sewage Works on the 9th and a pair displaying at Fulford Golf Course on the 27th. A flock of c.70 Linnets was at Heslington East on the 17th at least while a calling Twite was reported flying north over Strensall Common on the 23rd. Several Crossbills were noted at both Allerthorpe Common and Wass Wood early in the month as well as Strensall Common on the 23rd. Finishing with exotica, a noisy escaped Cockatiel was making its presence felt at York University on the 16th!
Harsh winter conditions were experienced in the first part of the month with snow and ice, followed by brief flooding in some areas. At least 40 Mute Swans were at Castle Howard Lake on the 10th with c.30 Whooper Swans still in the North Duffield area on the 18th. There was some movement of Pink-footed Geese from mid-month with counts of c.150 heading west over Bubwith Ings on the 16th, c.175 west over Ampleforth on the 21st and c.100 north over Askham Bog on the 26th while up to 40 Eurasian White-fronted Geese were noted at Castle Howard between the 19th and 21st with a lone Brent Goose reported from the riverbank at North Duffield Carrs on the 20th. Two Egyptian Geese flew south over Wheldrake Ings on the 12th when 18 Shelduck were present on the reserve with 16 at North Duffield on the 18th. Three pairs of Mandarin Duck were at Castle Howard Lake on the 19th while more notable counts of Wigeon included 300+ at the latter site on the 10th and c.250 on the River Derwent at Bubwith Bridge on the 14th. The hard weather early in the month displaced a number of wildfowl as water bodies froze over with subsequent floods at Bishopthorpe on the 11th including drake Wigeon, a pair of Gadwall and a female Pintail with another of the latter in a ditch on Langwith Lane, south of Heslington the previous day. Diving ducks at Castle Howard Lake on the 10th included 40+ Pochard, 60+ Tufted Duck and 30+ Goldeneye, but only six Goosander with records of this species generally scattered throughout the area, including up to 50 or more at Redhouse Reservoir which remained unfrozen during the cold snap. Pairs of Grey Partridge were noted at North Duffield Carrs on the 17th and Heslington the day after while hardly any Great Crested or Little Grebes were wintering and a Bittern was seen out in the open on the frozen pool at Wheldrake Ings on the 7th. There were few raptor reports but these included a Red Kite at Poppleton on the 28th, single Merlins at Rawcliffe Cornfield NR on the 8th and York Science Park on the 22nd, and presumably the same Peregrine in the Lower Derwent Valley between the 19th and 21st. Waders were more in evidence, however, with the first returning and passage birds noted: pairs of Oystercatchers were at several sites from the 15th while a Ringed Plover was seen at Heslington East on the 19th and 21st with 300+ Golden Plover at Wheldrake Ings on the 18th and c.180 Lapwings in fields south of Heslington on the 24th with eight birds back at Middlethorpe Ings next day. More unusual was a first-winter Knot which frequented the pools at Heslington East from the 5th-18th where six Dunlin were present on the 2nd with four there until the 6th and 100+ at Wheldrake on the 18th at least. Ten Ruff were at the latter site on the 19th while a Jack Snipe was at Redhouse on the 10th and a Woodcock seen in flight near Elvington airfield on the 17th with two at Allerthorpe Common on the 20th. A single Black-tailed Godwit was noted at Wheldrake Ings on the 19th with two there the following day and six Curlew were at North Duffield Carrs on the 18th with numbers at Wheldrake rising to 34 by the 20th. A Redshank was at Heslington East on the 3rd with 15 at Wheldrake on the 18th while a single Green Sandpiper lingered at the former site from the 14th. Gulls continued to feature prominently this month, especially in the Poppleton area, with several interesting species seen: a first-winter Yellow-legged Gull was identified on the 13th with an adult there on the 26th while small numbers of Lesser Black-backed Gull were also seen. There were regular reports of both Iceland and Glaucous Gulls with at least five and three of each respectively while an adult Kumlien’s Gull was reported at the Wheldrake Ings roost on the 29th. Single Barn Owls were reported from several sites with Little Owls at two localities as Short-eared Owls were still being reported in good numbers with at least nine birds in the Lower Derwent Valley mid-month. Passerine flocks included 20 Meadow Pipits coming in to roost at Wheldrake on the 12th and 50+ Pied Wagtails at Heslington East on the 15th with c.120 of the latter at the York city centre roost on the 23rd. The harsh weather early in the month forced numbers of Fieldfare and Redwing to visit suburban gardens in search of food with 50+ of the former counted in a Cliffe garden on the 10th. Marsh Tits were recorded in the Castle Howard area while a Willow Tit seen at Clifton Ings on the 8th was rather more unusual and Nuthatches were noted at Bishopthorpe Palace and Moorlands YWT reserve. A Great Grey Shrike present near Copmanthorpe on the 1st and 2nd was a good find though perhaps more unexpected was a Raven observed calling from a pylon at Allerthorpe Common on the 14th while c.2,000 Starlings came into roost at Heslington village on the 20th. There were at least 300 Tree Sparrows estimated to be at Rawcliffe Cornfield NR on the 7th and a single Brambling flew over Castle Howard on the 20th with three present there on the 24th – a scarce bird this winter. Decent flocks of Siskin and Redpoll were observed at Redhouse Woods while 100+ Crossbills were at Allerthorpe Common on the 20th and 21st. Yellowhammer counts included 47 at Rawcliffe Cornfield NR on the 7th and c.30 at Allerthorpe Common on the 28th with 60 Reed Buntings coming in to roost at Wheldrake Ings on the 12th. Over 30 Corn Buntings were roosting at Rawcliffe Cornfield NR early in the month while 100+ were feeding amongst a mixed flock of some 500 finches and buntings along Langwith Lane on the 10th.
The year started well with a good variety of species recorded this month. A maximum of 15 Mute Swans was at Heslington East on the 14th when 40+ Whooper Swans were at Wheldrake Ings. Scarcer species of geese continued to be reported with three Tundra Bean Geese seen with c.40 Pink-footed Geese along the road between Escrick and Wheldrake on the 8th while other counts of the latter included 450 north over East Cottingwith and 400+ southwest over Bishopthorpe on the 14th as well as 150+ over Poppleton on the 11th. An adult Eurasian White-fronted Goose flew west over Rawcliffe Country Park on the 12th with up to 51 noted at Castle Howard and one to two at Wheldrake Ings from mid-month. Numbers of duck were still relatively low in the Lower Derwent Valley, though some partial flooding did help with counts on the 10th including c.40 Shelduck at Aughton Ings with 100 each of Wigeon and Teal at Storwood Grange as well as 1,000 Teal and 11 Pintail at Wheldrake Ings. Elsewhere, a drake Goldeneye was at Heslington East on the 14th but numbers of this species and Goosander were very low generally. Up to 11 Grey Partridges were noted at Dunnington Common throughout the month with two at Heslington East on the 21st while a Little Grebe was on the Pocklington Canal at Melbourne on the 8th and 26th with only a single Great Crested Grebe noted at Castle Howard Lake. A Red Kite flying over fields near Heslington East on the 8th was a good record and a ringtail Hen Harrier was reported from Nunburnholme (just outside the recording area) on the 22nd while Common Buzzards were widespread with ten in the Hovingham area on the 23rd. A Merlin was at Heslington East on the 8th with Peregrines noted at several sites. Waders were generally in short supply, apart from Lapwing with the highest counts on the 10th being c.3,000 at Bubwith Ings, c.1,000 at Wheldrake Ings and 100 on floods at Storwood Grange. Otherwise, 25 Golden Plover were at Dunnington Common on the 13th with 100 in the Poppleton area, c.100 Dunlin at Bubwith Ings on the 10th when two were at Wheldrake, a single Ruff at Aughton Ings on the 8th when a Jack Snipe was at Heslington East as well as other dates, 22 Common Snipe at Rawcliffe Meadows Flood Basin on the 16th with two at Fulford Ings on the 14th and one at Heslington East on the 21st, a Bar-tailed Godwit at Wheldrake on the 29th and a Redshank at Heslington East on the 23rd. Gulls featured prominently this month, especially as numbers of birds could be easily viewed in fields west of Poppleton where they spent time resting and preening after feeding at Harewood Whin (Rufforth tip). An adult Mediterranean Gull was seen at Heslington East on the 14th with an adult Yellow-legged Gull at Poppleton on the 20th and a first-winter there on the 27th. A first-winter Caspian Gull bearing a lettered yellow ring (which unfortunately could not be read) was found at Wheldrake Ings on the 14th and continued to visit the reserve until the 16th. Meanwhile, an adult Caspian Gull was identified at Poppleton on the 20th and was seen again on the 27th at least. A second-winter Iceland Gull visited the roost at Wheldrake Ings on the 14th and 28th with an adult present at Poppleton on the 20th and 26th possibly accounting for birds seen flying west over Bishopthorpe on the 21st and northwest over East Cottingwith on the 22nd. Barn Owls seem to be recovering after they were badly affected last winter and this has been a good winter for Short-eared Owls with up to three birds continuing to perform well in the Poppleton area in addition to two frequenting Wheldrake Ings. A good count of 32 Pied Wagtails was recorded at the latter site on the 10th with c.200 noted at the roost in York city centre on the 23rd. Meanwhile, the only Waxwing report this month concerned three birds seen in a roadside hedgerow near Bubwith bridge on the 8th – not a site where they were likely to hang around for long! A flock of 20 Fieldfare was noted at Heslington East on the 5th with a similar number at Storwood Grange on the 10th along with c.50 Redwings. There were sightings of Marsh Tits at Castle Howard and, more unusually, Naburn Bridge with Willow Tits reported from Hoverigham, Askham Bog and along the Pocklington Canal, while a pair of Nuthatches remained at Bishopthorpe Palace. Good numbers of Tree Sparrows were noted in the Clifton Ings and Dunnington areas with the highest count being 118 at Rawcliffe Cornfield NR on the 18th while finch flocks included 30+ Chaffinches in the Heslington area on the 5th and 26 at Hagg Wood on the 13th, 60+ Siskins at Askham Bog on the 25th, 20+ Lesser Redpolls at Stockton-on-the-Forest on the 28th which included a Mealy Redpoll, and 70+ Linnets at Hagg Wood on the 13th with 30+ at Rawcliffe Cornfield NR on the 18th. More unusual species included a female Brambling in a garden just north of Strensall on the 29th and 31st, a Twite at East Cottingwith on the 1st and two Crossbills at Fryton Moor on the 28th. Notable bunting flocks included 30 Yellowhammers at Hagg Wood on the 13th, c.30 at Hovingham on the 23rd and 26 at Dunnington Common on the 31st, 58 Reed Buntings at Rawcliffe Meadows on the 25th, 24 Corn Buntings along the Pocklington Canal on the 26th and an impressive 155 at Dunnington Common on the 31st.